On September 29, 1328, a daughter, Joan, was born to the Earl of Kent in Oxfordshire, England. She would grow up to have an incredibly interesting life – especially if you consider the stereotypes that surround medieval women. As a young girl, Joan befriended her cousin, the royal Prince Edward of Woodstock, also known as the Black Prince. This friendship will come back into play soon! At the age of 12, Joan secretly married disgraced nobleman, Thomas Holland, who was fourteen years her senior. Holland then left England for Crusade against the pagans of Prussia and Joan was forced to marry William Montacute, heir of the Earl of Salisbury. Joan did not bring up the fact that she was already married, fearful that Thomas would be killed because of it. As such, there would be an issue when Thomas Holland returned home.
When he did, the marriage with Joan was made known and Thomas demanded the return of his wife. William Montacute responded by imprisoning Joan in his home until the Pope finally ruled in favor of Joan’s first marriage and she returned to the house she preferred. Over the next 11 years, Thomas and Joan celebrated the births of five children prior to Thomas’ death in 1360. Throughout her marriage(s), Joan had maintained a close friendship with Prince Edward who had never married. After the mourning period for Thomas was over, Edward approached Joan and gifted her a silver cup from his military exploits. King Edward III, the Prince’s father, was concerned about his son’s courtship of a widow who had already been secretly married – but Joan and the Prince approached the king and told him that they would be married in secret, if the king did not bless the marriage. Faced with this ultimatum from his heir, Edward III relented. Joan of Kent and Edward, the Black Prince, were married on 10 October 1361. Joan took the title Princess of Wales, as her new husband was the Prince of Wales (the first time this was used for the heir to the throne!). This marriage lasted for 10 years until the death of Edward and produced two children, one of whom survived to adulthood to become King Richard II upon the death of his grandfather, Edward III.
When Edward III passed away in 1377, young Richard became king at the age of 10. Despite mismanagement of much royal power by the subsequent regency led by Richard’s uncle, John of Gaunt, Joan brilliantly managed her own reputation and that of her son. For example, during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, Joan passed through the lines of the rebels unmolested and, in fact, was cheered as she went by. Due to her popularity, which rubbed off on her young son, the rebels never condemned the monarchy – just the bad advisors. A strong argument, therefore, can be made that Joan of Kent held much of the responsibility for the continued success of the English monarchy during a period of particularly acute trouble. The beloved queen mother died in 1385 and was buried, per her request, with her first husband, Thomas.